Online Slots: Do You Play for Pay or Fun?
A high payback percentage is one factor in game choice, but in the end, you should play what you enjoy: online slots, online tables or video poker.
If you’ve been playing slot games online for a while, you’ve learned you often can check on the overall payback percentage of a game. That’s the total amount of wagers—by everyone—on particular game that’s returned to players in the form of wins, whether small or large.
Make no mistake—overall payback percentage is an important gauge of a game’s generosity, if only because the number reflects all types of gaming machines, including, importantly, video poker. However, that overall payback number on the slot side is now a bit skewed. The reason is the penny game.
Penny-denomination games typically offer the lowest overall return to the player in the payback percentages offered. These days, many of the penny slots are returning overall numbers as low as 87 percent, and many of them are under 90 percent. By comparison, it’s not hard to find classic quarter games returning upwards of 95 percent, and in the case of dollars, even more.
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But the pennies, as in physical casinos, remain among the most popular choices offered by online casinos. The reason is that the online casinos are able to offer huge credit awards, and still have the games make profit for them. Because of this, the game programs are very volatile. In other words, there may be a lot of dry spells and “dribble wins” that are less than the wager, but players experience the thrill of occasional big jackpot and big bonus awards.
That’s the other appeal of the games, by the way: They allow for elaborate bonus sequences and persistent features similar to those found in mobile games. Win or lose, these elements make them very entertaining.
Finally, you don’t need a huge bankroll to get that entertainment in a penny denomination. That’s an important factor.
If you love all this about the penny denominations, by all means, go ahead and play them. Slots are all about enjoying yourself. But if it’s a good return you’re after, there are certainly other choices. To identify them, look at the game style and the number of paylines. The traditional games—the ones that mimic the classic reel-spinners—are normally where you’ll find the highest payback percentage.
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The Thrill of the Chase
These games are usually available in higher denominations. Traditionally, higher wagers qualify you for higher returns. So your ideal game, if higher returns are what’s important, is the classic three-reel game in a dollar or higher denomination. The traditional setup features a single payline, but these days, iGaming sites have them available with five lines or nine lines. Again, higher wagers equal higher returns.
Players who gravitate to the classic style are normally older, and accustomed to how these games behave. There won’t be a lot of small wins that are lower than your wager, but you’ll get the occasional big hits. In this game style, the thrill is in the chase. You’re putting down big wagers in the hopes of waiting out a house edge that’s only a few percentage points. These are designed for gamblers.
Penny slot games at online casino sites generally do return a few more percentage points to players than penny games in physical casinos, particularly those in tourist traps on the Las Vegas Strip. This is one reason to stick with them if that’s the kind of game style you enjoy. But if you’re going for overall return, go more traditional.
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The wild card in payback percentage, of course, is video poker. The video poker games with the top pay tables return payback percentages hovering around 100 percent—and in some cases, even a little more, making them player-advantage games.
If you want a game with almost no house edge, you can find plenty of books, websites and magazines like Casino Player and Strictly Slots to get you up to speed on video poker.
Just remember: even with no house edge, you’re not guaranteed to win. A 100 percent payback percentage is like flipping a coin—it’ll come up tails half the time over the long run. Consequently, over time, you’ll lose as much as you win on video poker. But again, the thrill is in the chase.
In the end, you’re at an online casino for the entertainment. If you love poker, play poker. If you like table games, go for the live casino games available on all the sites. You’ll find you get a high player return there, too, just like at the physical sites. If bonuses and big credit wins are your thing, go for the pennies.
Hopefully, this will give you a guide on what to expect from various game styles. Bottom line: casinos, online or brick-and-mortar, are about having fun. Play what you enjoy.